Experience certainly paid off for the Corinth Holders boys golf team and South Johnston’s Patrick Stephenson at the NCHSAA 3A Eastern Golf Regional at Wilson Country Club Monday.
The Pirates played their amazingly consistent brand of golf – five scores of 84 or less – and won their third consecutive regional team championship. Stephenson, who lost in a playoff for the individual regional title as a freshman, prevailed in a playoff this time to take the regional championship.
Both performances moved the winners into this week’s 3A state championships at Longleaf Golf and Country Club in Southern Pines. The 36-hole event finishes up on Tuesday.
Two players broke 70 at Wilson CC – Stephenson and Corinth Holders’ Kellen LaBonte, who both finished at 69, forcing a playoff.
LaBonte won the toss to decide who teed off first on the playoff hole, but pushed his tee shot wide of the fairway. Then a bad break added to his issues when the ball bounced off of a cart path and ended up out of bounds.
Stephenson made a club change before his tee shot, hitting a hybrid to the left side of the fairway, then hit the green and two-putted for par and the win. LaBonte ended up with a bogey five.
South Johnston coach Daniel Benson said Stephenson made good use of his practice round a week before the tournament.
“I believe he studied the course and knew all the places he wanted to be off the tee,” Benson said. “He made very few mistakes with only one bogey on his card. He was 4-under when his approach shot on 16 spun back off the green and he ended up with a bogey to put him 3-under with two holes to play.”
LaBonte was also 4-under late in his round after an up-and-down back nine. He made the nine-hole turn at 4-under after birdies at seven, eight and nine, but suffered bogeys at the 10th and 11th only to get both of those shots back with back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13.
A long approach shot on 18 left LaBonte with a long par putt for a round of 68 but it didn’t hit the mark and he had to “settle” for a 69.
“Kellen had the round of his life,” said Corinth Holders coach Theresa Gale. “During the practice round, his teammates heckled him a bit about not giving his putts a chance because he was leaving everything short. He apparently listened, because he had seven birdies in all.”
Monty Fields carded an 81 for the Pirates, while Sam Baxter had an 83. Grayson Adams and Nick Routhier both carded 84.
“I am extremely proud of these young men,” Gale said. “They have won their third regional in three years. Their three-year record including regionals is 134 wins and one loss (by a shot to Cleveland last year).
“Our low team score this year was a 306, so the rest of the team was a little disappointed in their scores, but the important thing is we are going to the state championships again this year. We have some very tough competition at states; they know they will have to have very good rounds to bring home a trophy.”
South Johnston’s team finished at 347 with Brooks Skinner shooting an 87. Bryson Peter of Cleveland shot 80 and Ethan Faulconer of Smithfield-Selma had a solid 81, both just missing out on one of the individual state championship berths.
4A Mideast: Garner finished eighth in the deep 4A Mideast Regional at Raleigh Country Club. The Trojans totaled 336 strokes, led by a 78 from Trey Capps and Kyle Gilman’s 80. West Johnston was 12th at 378.
Clayton individual qualifiers Alex Casatelli and Matthew King shot 81 and 82, respectively. Knightdale’s Chris Sebastiani shot 84.
Rolesville’s Blake McShea (74) was one of the three individuals who advanced to the state round from nonqualifying teams.
2A East: North Johnston’s golf team finished eighth at the 2A East Regional, led by matching 85s from Hunter Pike and Andy Green.
1A Mideast: Princeton took seventh at the 1A Mideast Regional. Spencer Woodard had the Bulldogs’ low round of the tournament.